This new upper section is more open and slightly flatter than the original whoops section but that makes for a great lead into the steeper stuff.
As one rider noted after cruising the new whoops late in April, “Fantastic…Another one of Phil’s masterpieces.” A masterpiece that many riders are doing laps on already.
Another rider that same day dubbed it “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.” Unfortunately that apt name already has been bestowed on a Lake Tahoe basin trail noted for its “gnar” factor.
The BLM has been holding extensive on-the-ground meetings with trail users and other groups regarding the proposed changes to the existing trail system to protect winter deer range.
As reported late last year, the new multi-use trail (run, bike, hike) will head further west out to the canyon rim and then north, eventually tying back into existing trail.
A proposed black diamond trail along the edge of the canyon rim, however, has been spiked because of concerns about nesting birds along the canyon rim. Instead, the trail will be moved away from the rim and made more accessible (read 'less scary') for all riders. However, black diamond loops will be created off the newly crated rim trail for those who have the expertise and interest.
A Change of Pace
While seldom, if ever, mountain biked, the trail system at Otter Bench in Crooked River Ranch is a worthy ride this time of year for the scenery alone and the total absence of crowds.
The trails system, at the dead end of the roadway just beyond the Crooked River golf course, starts with classic, narrow singletrack that rolls along a hillside for 1.7 miles. This is easy riding for most people and makes for a nice short out-and-back jaunt.
If you want to go further, when the trail comes to a prominent junction, follow the signs and go left and climb up a steep hill to an old road that winds along the cliffs above the Crooked River. This half-mile section is way more technical terrain and requires bike handling skills as well as some hike-a-bike sections. A fall here could result in a long and fast trip toward the river.
Once the road crests, it takes a right turn and heads downhill to the junction for a three-mile singletrack loop. Take the loop junction to the left to get all the techie riding done before coming back on the dead flat return route.
The views on the loop are amazing. There’s Opal Springs, huge cliff bands, the roaring (at this time of year) Crooked River below, and wildflowers. There’s also plenty of avian life from hawks to swallows and magpies. After mid-May, be on the alert for rattlesnakes basking in the sun.
One further note, the narrow (maybe 12-inches wide) Otter Bench sidehill trails ride well on a 29er but are 26er perfect, given the numerous tight turns.
On the drive out, take a look at the Old Ranch, one of the most memorable pioneer homesteads in Central Oregon. It’s just off the roadway to the north.
Pete, Gray and More
Peterson Ridge trails are in prime shape right now but there are fewer wildflowers this year to enliven the terrain. If you go, try riding out from Three Creeks Brewing on the bike trail through the Five Pine Lodge and onto the Peterson system. That way, you get a nice reward in the form of a craft brew at ride’s end.
Over on Gray Butte it’s also prime riding season and some wildflowers are already dotting the trailside. The Cole Trail down into the Grasslands remains one of Central Oregon’s more interesting routes. It offers a bit of red rock, Southwest style scenery in our backyard.
The Horse Butte loop is starting to get soft and chopped up, so ride it soon or forget about it. Not so at Horse Ridge which is now rideable year-round. Ride the ridge this summer and you’ll probably be alone or see no more than one or two other riders.